‘You Ain’t Clean’: As Flannery O’Connor Observes, None of Us Is

wisebloodTHIS POST was supposed to be a gushing paean to Flannery O’Connor’s astoundingly good debut novel, Wise Blood, whose audio version I concluded listening to on my way to work yesterday.

O’Connor’s masterful capture of the mid-century South — of its deeply ingrained racism, its dusty sleepiness, its barely hidden corruption — is startling. None of the characters is likable, though in O’Connor’s confident hands they attain a cockeyed dignity. Each has his or her own unique voice, and the author handles multiple points of view deftly.

The religious overtones for which she became known are already fully present here; indeed, the book turns on them. Despite her relative youth, O’Connor offers them to the reader forthrightly and without apology.

I hadn’t read her since a short story or two in college, and Wise Blood made me wonder what took me so long.

But what grabbed the most was one of the final sentences I heard: 

This book was read by Bronson Pinchot.

I’d known that Pinchot could handle a nameless European accent with no problem, but what he does with the Southern accents of Wise Blood is remarkable.

No, I’m not joking.

Pinchot’s reading of O’Connor’s dialogue is pitch-perfect; through his intonations and emphases, the characters truly come alive. He reads the narrative tracts with a gentle Southern accent absolutely perfect for the setting O’Connor renders so precisely.

From the island of Mypos to Taulkinham, Tennessee. Who’d have thought? | DL

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